River Hills Traveler Ozarks Float Trippin' Section

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Ozarks Float Trippin’ GUIDE

• Big • Big Piney • Black • Courtois & Huzzah • Gasconade • Jacks Fork • Meramec • Niangua • North Fork • St.Francis • Upper Current


River Hills

Traveler JUNE 1, 2012

•True Adventure Stories •Canoe Outfitters •Campgrounds • Lodging & Dining • Safety Information




By Barbara Gibbs Ostmann by James, in his debut role as a trip trip last August on the leader. We were on the water by 11:15 Big River was billed as a a.m., about an hour later than intended beginner-level trip with because of the unexpected detour. fairly slow-moving water. But with the faster-than-usual water, The Big River is a tributary of we made the 10-mile trip down river the Meramec River. Like its sister in good time, paddling leisurely and tributary, the Bourbeuse, the Big River stopping often for breaks. is generally slow. So it was a pleasant Even with the increased river flow, surprise to find the river faster and we had to do some maneuvering to higher than usual because of heavy avoid the occasional low spot, but rains the night before. there was no point at which it was The trip was organized by the St. necessary to get out and drag the Louis Canoe and Kayak Club and led boats. There were several difficult by Dave Haessig, a veteran paddler, wood gardens to paddle through, and his son, James, a high school which we accomplished without any senior at the time. The 18 boaters swimmers or other complications. included a mix of ages, from 17 to 83, The day’s star of the show was our and a mix of skill levels, from expert canine companion, a little Yorkie who to novice, with a fleet of 15 kayaks, was safely equipped with her own two solo canoes and one tandem PFD (puppy flotation device). canoe. Merrill Horse Landing near the new We met Highway H at the bridge was bridge on our intended Mammoth lunch stop, Road, off but because of Highway H the late start, in southern we stopped Jefferson for lunch on County, and a beautiful unloaded gravel bar our boats with plenty and gear, of shade, well then before the jumped landing. back into LOCAL LANDMARK — The old Highway H bridge on As we neared our cars to Big River is an easy-to-spot landmark. the old drive to the Highway H take-out bridge, we point at Brown’s Ford bridge. The pulled over to admire the steep bluffs. plan was to leave our cars at Brown’s A vocal bird on a dead tree kept Ford and run a shuttle back to the put- up a despairing call. After the trip, in at Mammoth. photographer and birder Becky Joseph When we passed the school at tentatively identified it as an immature Ware, we saw an emergency medical Swainson’s hawk. helicopter in the parking lot, and when After paddling uneventfully through we arrived at Brown’s Ford Road, it Killer Fangs Falls, as nicknamed by was closed because of an accident. Dave, we took out about 4:45 p.m. at That necessitated a long and winding the bridge at Brown’s Ford. Dinner detour to get around to the other side at a Mexican restaurant in DeSoto of Brown’s Ford, where we could topped off the day. leave the cars. “It was my first trip with the group Once the shuttle was taken care of, and my first time back on a river after the float trip began in earnest. We over 30 years away from it,” said started with a de rigueur safety talk kayaker John Ogilvy. “It won’t be my


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BIG BLUFFS — The bluffs near the old Highway H bridge are one of the most scenic spots along this section of the Big River. Barbara Gibbs Ostmann photos.

last trip.” Diana Kinder, a solo canoeist who paddles frequently with the club, said, “I never expected the river to be that pretty. I also thought it would be very slow, like the times I’ve had on the Bourbeuse. It was a very pleasant trip.” River facts for Aug. 13, 2011: Level: 3.3 feet, flow: 359 cubic feet per second. The section of Big River we floated was mostly in southern Jefferson County, below Washington State Park. It’s is only about an hour’s drive from St. Louis, making it ideal for a day trip. For more information about Big River, visit http://www.missouricanoe. org/river-maps/big.html. The St. Louis Canoe and Kayak Club organizes day and overnight paddle trips in Missouri and neighboring states. It states and offers safety clinics and other events. All skill levels are welcome. For more information, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ stlouiscanoekayakclub/.

BIG Location: St. Francois, Washington, Jefferson counties Floatable Length: 83.2 miles Difficulty: I Key Features: Upper Big River rises in the Lead Belt and has a few water quality issues. Flows through St. Francois and Washington State Parks. Lower section in Jefferson County has many old mill sites, some have to be portaged.

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Take a ramble on the Gasconade River


By Jo Schaper f you took a straight line and ran it from Schuyler County on the Iowa border down to Howell County next to Arkansas, you’d trace a line 281 miles long. If you put a kayak in the water where the Gasconade rises just south of Hartville in Webster County, and, except for portages, didn’t get off the river until it ran into the Missouri River, you’d travel about the same distance in river miles, but barely


Location: Wright, Laclede, Pulaski, Phelps, Maries, Osage, Gasconade counties Floatable Length: 253.1 miles Difficulty: Mostly I, seldom II Key Features: Gasconade runs north from the Springfield Plateau to the Missouri River. Spring fed, mostly private access, pretty crooked in places, easy floating. cover half the state. The Gasconade has a number of things to recommend it as a floating stream. Although it winds across south and central Missouri as if it owns it, it never becomes a really “big” river, ending up roughly the same size near Hermann as the Meramec at Arnold. Why? In many of its sections, the Gasconade is a “losing” stream. This doesn’t reflect on its character; rather, as it winds across the limestone, the river leaks through the gravelly bottom, losing water as it goes. This means it looks and feels like a headwaters stream much longer that it ought to. At 270+ miles long, it’s the longest river totally contained in the state. From its rocky and shallow origins, it flows northward, down off the Ozark Plateau in apparent Missouri defiance of the notion that American rivers should flow west, east or most logically south. It’s going from higher elevation to lower, of course, and lacking map sense, just in an unexpected direction. The reason is quite simple: the Gasconade Valley is simply older and unaffected by the two million year old glaciers, which turned even the mighty Missouri to a south-flowing stream. But what’s it like to be out on the

HEMMED IN —Tall sheer bluffs are characteristic of the middle Gasconade. Over the eons, the river has cut its channel into “incised meanders” which effectively keep it from easily spreading sideways in some places during floods.

Gasconade? It depends where you are. I’ve been on it two places, one, upstream on the Osage Fork, which some consider a river in its own right, and two, in the middle reach of Pulaski County, where most of the public land access is, as well as the greatest concentration of outfitters. The Osage Fork is moderately shallow, rocky, eminently wade-able, and cavernous. The Gasconade rock formation is full of holes by nature: a gray dolomite interspersed with fossilfilled chert layers. High on either fork, kayaks do better than canoes. The Osage Fork contains both black and rock bass special management areas. Further down the watershed, the Little Piney tributary has a wild trout management area, and the Big Piney again, has a smallmouth bass special management area. Over 109 species of fish call the Gasconade basin home.

BIG PINEY Location: Texas, Pulaski, Phelps counties Floatable Length: 85.7 or continue into Gasconade Difficulty: Mostly I, sometimes II after rains Key Features: Excellent bass fishery, shallow gravel paddle in spots. The Big Piney crosses Ft. Leonard Wood, so be aware of maneuvers. Goes through Mark Twain National Forest. Many springs. Town of Devils Elbow near the end of river is notable US 66 location.

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Anglers might disagree, but the very crookedness of the river, over 70 mid to large size springs, sharp turns and high bluffs make the Gasconade a sporting river to paddle. Hardy souls actually tried to run steamboats on the Gasconade in the 19th century, but its pool and riffle character doomed that operation almost from the start, except on lower, flatter reaches. The middle Gasconade, from where the Osage Fork joins it near Hazelgreen, is floatable year round, and under most conditions. Roubidoux Creek, another nearby losing stream, becomes excellent trout water with the addition of Roubidoux Spring, the 16th largest in the state, and the only major Missouri spring generally open to cave and cavern diving. The spring is

BIG DIFFERENCE — Both the color and the clarity of the Gasconade change at Boiling Spring. Jo Schaper photos. part of Waynesville’s Laughlin Park; divers check in and out at the 911 emergency center in town. A popular float in the area is to start on the Big Piney and then run down the Gasconade some distance before takeout. The major sign that you are near the confluence is the shallow Piney suddenly takes on outboards and jetboats, which the larger Gasconade easily, accommodates in addition to paddlecraft. Further downriver, Boiling Spring adds about 42 million gallons of water to the Gasconade’s flow, with its cold water giving a place for any errant trout or torpedo-like smallmouth to congregate. (Yes, I’ve seen the smallmouth. And they do look like torpedos. That is not an exaggeration. But they got that way be being wily. Be forewarned.) Even so, the Gasconade is familyfriendly, not so crowded as some more popular streams in the summer, (pretty Saturdays everywhere are crowded) and well worth the extra drive from metropolitan areas.

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Home on the

Black ‘I have unofficially declared the gin-clear Black River my home river in recent years’


By Nolan Brunnworth veryone needs to have a “home” river. The default river for all types of recreation - fishing, floating, camping, and just plain fun. The river you are raised on. The river where

lasting memories are made. Often times, we are unknowingly introduced to our home river via our parents and friends. As we get older, we share these special places and traditions with new friends and family. While we are so very blessed to have

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a multitude of choices here in the Show-Me State, many of us ultimately choose one or two rivers for our weekend adventures and memory-making. Since the development of my latest affliction — kayak fishing — I must admit to having a bit of attention

deficit disorder. So many streams to cross off my list. Of course, some of the blame has to go to Oz Hawksley — the latest Master Conservationist award recipient and author of Missouri Ozark Waterways. Once I Continued on next page

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Black River, Arcadia Valley offer trove of opportunities

Continued from previous page load up his dry bag and test out his Opa) to use my extra kayak for the discovered his paddler’s guide, it paddling abilities. trip. Three generations, three kayaks. was— as they say — all over. Despite Of course, Santa does his research, We pushed off our gravel bar, and this natural curiosity to explore all and this kayak model was designed gave Mom directions to pick us up of our beautiful spring-fed streams, I for little paddlers like Baron. I decided at the bridge. After a couple straight have unofficially declared the gina 5-mile stretch ending at the Highstretches, my son learned his first lesclear Black River son in paddling. When my home river in we entered into a genrecent years. Perhaps tle bend with swifter it’s due to the treawater, we watched him sure trove of recreglide into the “V.” He ational opportunities tried strokes on each near the upper and side of the boat, only middle stretches of to gradually introduce the Black. Maybe himself to the river it’s the extra degree bank. of challenge preI decided to try hooksented by the resident ing my rope-withsmallmouth, who carabiner from the likely see my shadow back of my kayak to through the transparthe front of his. I usuent waters. ally keep this rope in The charm of the dry hatch, for my Arcadia Valley and own portages through the scenic drive down shallow water. This Highway 21 are also ARCADIA MAGIC — The rugged beauty and clear waters of the Arcadia Val- turned out to be a nice likely reasons. As a ley have been wooing travelers for centuries. The area includes Johnston little set-up, I could result, I have decided Shut-Ins and Elephant Rocks State Park, Fort Davidson Historic Site, the unhook him in the easy that the Black is more Black River, sections of the Ozark Trail and many other recreational and stretches and tow him than worthy to also through the snakey historic venues. Ron Kruger photo. serve as my children’s parts. Enough to build home river. way K Bridge would be perfect for the his confidence and skills, without any It dawned on me last year that there maiden voyage. During my previous worries from the cockpit. may be no better way to inspire a trips to the Black, I had paddled this We made several stops to swim and young person to assume a long life as section, along with other stretches fish, and a local bald eagle was graa river-keeper than to launch them in below Lesterville and up in the forks. cious enough to provide us with a flytheir own kayak. After all, Santa Claus We were lucky enough to have my over. Only a couple trash items were had graciously delivered a kayak to wife’s parents in town for an extended found along this stretch, and Baron my 4-year old son (funny how that July 4th holiday weekend, so I coaxed was eager to stash them in his boat. happens) and he was just itching to her dad (whom we affectionately call Opa displayed his Missouri roots

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BLACK Location: Reynolds, Wayne, Butler counties Floatable Length: 88 miles Difficulty: I to II Centerville to Lesterville gradient of 10 Key Features: First 41 miles above Clearwater Lake are swift Ozark stream; below Clearwater more meandering river. River drains Taum Sauk area, forms Johnson’s and other Shut-ins; below the lake, USFS has several campground accesses. by easily navigating his kayak and putting on a crawdad-catching clinic. Several bluffs line this stretch, and the gravel bars are plentiful. We lost track of time during our peaceful float, yet somehow managed to arrive at Highway K only minutes after Mom crossed the bridge to greet us. After a final dip in the cool water, we loaded up the boats and made the quick drive back to camp. Oma cooked up a tasty meal of burgers and fried potatoes. We rewarded Baron with an ice cold soda, and listened to him share his account of “riding the rapids” with his sister.

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Sibling rivalry subsides under Huzzah’s spell


By Emery Styron y brother, Harry, was in St. Louis on business one Friday in May last year. We decided to see if we had outgrown our sibling rivalry enough to tolerate fishing together. I’m not saying Harry’s a know-itall, the type who has to be the center of attention or one one who enjoys employing his razor wit at others’ expense. He’s probably not much worse on those scores than his four brothers. (We do have a nice sister). What I’m saying is that Harry has hard time moving on from childhood incidents that I wish he had forgiven and forgotten. He was a precocious little guy as a five or six-year-old, eager to upstage his shy, introverted older brother. Sometimes it was necessary for me to torture him with headlocks and knees in the back to help him understand his proper place in the world. Later, when we were old enough to ride our bikes to Shoal Creek and fish under the railroad trestle, Harry was the favorite target for pranks by me and some of the older neighborhood kids. When fishing was slow on our murky, sluggish stream, friend John could always stir things up with the suggestion, “Let’s depants Harry.”

Courtois & Huzzah Location: Crawford County Floatable Length: Courtois 21.2 miles; Huzzah 29.4 miles Difficulty: Shallow, but often II with high gradient Key Features: Courtois flows into Huzzah, which flows into Meramec. Clear, gravel bottomed, frequent obstructions, rarely deep. Can flash flood, crowded summer weekends, good for kayaks, sometimes challenging for tandem canoe.

THE BIG ONES ARE IN THERE —Longtime Traveler reader Barry Marquart hefts a 19-inch smallmouth he caught in Courtois Creek on Good Friday of 2011. Barry Marquart photo.

HAPPY ON THE HUZZAH — Harry Styron wade fishes on Huzzah Creek last May. Despite rain all week, the Huzzah ran clear. Emery Styron photo.

What I should have done, of course, was stand up for my kid brother and prevent these dastardly acts of bullying, even if I got depantsed myself trying. What I did, of course, was to help hold Harry down, yank the swimsuit off his skinny carcass and throw it up into a tree. I’m not proud, but that’s what happened. How was I to know that 40 or more years later he would still carry a grudge? That was then. Now, in 2011, Harry and I were both willing to see if we could spend a day in the outdoors without settling old scores. It had been rainy and rivers were high, but we thought we’d try a few spots on the Meramec where we could wade and fish. The river was bank-full and chocolate-brown at Valley Park, Eureka and

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Meramec State Park. We pushed on to Riverview Access, southwest of Cuba. High and muddy there too. Time was running short and I kept waiting for Harry to criticize my driving and choices of fishing spots. He held his tongue. Either he was too busy checking his Blackberry to smart off or those childhood lessons I taught him had finally sunk in. Our last hopes were the Huzzah or Courtois. We headed for Steelville, then east on Hwy. 8. We were lucky to find Corey Cottrell in the office at Huzzah Valley Resort. He said that the Huzzah was just a foot over normal, but clear and floatable. Both Huzzah and Courtois creeks have steep, rocky watersheds that let the streams subside quickly after rains, Corey told us. He hauled us upstream for a two- to three-hour float and advised that one particular 90-degree bend in the creek

was a dependable smallmouth hole. I began to worry as we dragged boat to the water. The rivalry seemed to be under control, but sharing a canoe would be the acid test. Not surprisingly, Harry wanted to steer. “So be it,” I said to myself. “More time for me to fish.” No sooner than were we on the water, than Harry laid down his paddle and began rigging his rod. I steered from the front of the boat until he got set up, but in the interests of harmony, I made no comment. We stopped often to wade and fish. The Huzzah’s clear, gurgling water reminded me of Sugar Creek in far southwest Missouri where we spent many happy days of our youth. That is, when we weren’t trying to kill each other. We didn’t fight this day, but both reverted to childhood patterns. Harry spent a lot of time untangling his line, an intellectual challenge he seems to prefer to actually fishing. I quickly lost three of my four Rooster Tails to overhanging trees but caught the only fish of the day on the remaining one. It was a 12-inch smallmouth, hooked at the exact spot Corey told us about. All in all, a very pleasant day. A year later, I called Harry to ask his recollections of the outing. “I kept waiting to be pummelled or hooked in the back or something, but nothing happened. It was great,” he said. I hadn’t thought about it, but he was right. The big news — nothing happened. Maybe we had outgrown our past or maybe it was just the magic of the Huzzah.

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Cooper’s deadly dozen


12 lures Meramec River smallmouth can’t resist By Bill Cooper ’ll yank a good smallmouth from under this log coming up,” said my long time fishing buddy Vern Clemens.

We drifted lazily down the Meramec River. Clemens handled his paddle jon with earned expertise. His cast with a blue and black jig-n-pig rig splashed lightly at the upper end of the submerged log. Clemens allowed the jig to sit still for several long seconds. He raised his rod tip just slightly. “He’s taking it,” he said as he set the hook. “Told ya there would be a nice smallmouth there.” Clemens proved to be the consummate smallmouth angler, the best I have ever met. He knew the stream he loved, knew the fish that lived there and knew how to catch them consistently. And his bait of choice remained a blue-black jig-n-pig rigged with a No. 11 Uncle Josh Pork Rind. Clemens always trimmed the bottom a bit on the pork frog to release more of the scent and to expose the white flesh of the rind. His tactics worked magic on Meramec River smallmouth. No. 1 Meramec smallmouth lure I have repeated Clemens’ fishing lessons many times over. I readily admit, however, that I have never attained his level of competence. My jig of choice is the Bass Pro Enticer Pro Series

Rattling Jig tipped with a Zoom Salty Pork Chunk. No. 2 is Cottrell-recommended Another day: I struggled to slide the canoe across the gravel bar to the Meramec all by myself. Corey Cottrell, my fishing partner, tossed a lure while I dragged. The water exploded and Cottrell reeled in a 15-inch smallmouth on his first cast. “I want that lure,” I goaded. “What is it?” It’s a Sammy lure,” Cottrell replied. “And they are deadly on smallmouth. They are the easiest lure to do the walk-the-dog I have ever used,” he said. I never go after smallmouth without several Sammy baits in my box. The Sammy 85, the 3 ¼” model in Tennessee Shad color is my favorite. However, I carry several colors and a couple of the next larger baits as well. The rest of the deadly dozen

3. The Super Fluke and Super Fluke Jr., made by Zoom, are among the most versatile of smallmouth baits. The long, slender, plastic baits imitate a dying minnow. Cast, wait, jig slightly and the action begins. The baits may be fished slowly on top or add a weighted hook for deeper action. 4. Spinner baits are a long time favorite of smallmouth anglers. They are the perfect lure to throw when DYING MINNOW DID TRICK — Flukes are deadly for big you want to cover lots of water. Cottrell uses them as smallmouth. The plastic stick baits work best when jigged Continued on next page slightly to imitate a dying minnow. Bill Cooper photo.

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Many reasons Meramec one of Missouri’s most popular streams


By Bill Cooper ummertime is here again and it is time to hit the river! Fortunately for Traveler Territory residents, it is not far to some type of moving water for any of us. How lucky we are. I feel especially fortunate because the Meramec River is practically in my back yard. It is one of our most popular float and fishing streams and rightfully so. From the beginning, just south of Salem, to the end, at the confluence of the Mississippi River, the Meramec River offers some of the best floating , fishing, camping, swimming, exploring and sightseeing available in the Ozarks. For practical purposes, the summer floating season is limited to the stretch

of river from the Highway 8 access west of Steelville to the Mississippi. Points above Highway 8 are very low in the summer and call for a lot of canoe dragging. Several canoe liveries service the Highway 8 access. It is a popular spot with local swimmers. Here the Meramec whisks canoers away quickly. The river runs at a steady clip, quickly warming up those paddling skills. Here the bordering lands are wild and scenic and owned by the James Foundation. Two miles down stream, the Maramec Spring branch enters the river. Take a cold dip here for a refreshing experience on a hot summer day. Many good camping spots exist within the borders of Woodson K.

Woods Memorial Wildlife Area. Remember that camping on private property is not permitted without permission. Most canoe liveries along the river have high quality campgrounds. Don’t forget your fishing rod. A Red Ribbon trout fishing area exists from the Highway 8 bridge down to Scott’s Ford, a perfect day float. Smallmouth bass are SECLUSION AVAILABLE plentiful, too. Special — The Meramec is often regulations apply. A special smallmouth busy but there are plenty of times and places for management area quiet contemplation of naextends from Scott’s ture’s beauty. Bill Cooper Ford to the Bird’s Nest photo. railroad bridge north

of Steelville. The area has been under special rules for over a decade and some bruiser smallmouth now call this section home. Too, you will find a large cave opening about a mile above the Highway 19 bridge. Need cooling off. The icy, cold water from the cave will do the trick. From Bird’s Nest to the confluence of Huzzah Creek is 16 miles. The Courtois enters the Huzzah just a mile up stream from where the Huzzah enters the Meramec. Both streams are very popular with floaters in the summer. Several smaller creeks and Continued on Page 14

12 Meramec tackle-box musts

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Continued from previous page search baits to find fish and then switches to another bait for slower fishing. The Booyah Blade Tandem and Double Tandem spinnerbaits in white are a good choice for smallies. 5. Every angler relishes explosive strikes of marauding smallmouth when they blow up on a buzzbait. The new Strike King Tour Grade Buzzbait is a high quality lure that will last and last under the rugged conditions of casting to rocky cover. 6. Chompers is a name long synonymous with bass fishing. The 4- and 5-inch twin tail grubs, fished on a Chompers stand-up jig is bad news for hungry smallmouth.The garlic scented baits are simply irresistible. The baits may be fished and jigged slowly on the bottom, drifted down runs or swam across the surface. 7. Tube baits are underrated for stream bred smallmouth. I’ve seen a mustard-colored tube rigged on a 7-foot ultra-light rod work magic on Huzzah Creek smallies. 8. Yum’s Baby Crawbug makes my list every time I head to the river. The 2½-inch model in camo color is deadly on bass in rocky cover. I often pitch the small baits to visible fish. Once the bait settles near the fish, pause for a few seconds and then slightly raise your rod tip. It is awesome to watch bass suck in the bait. The larger Crawbugs work, too. 9. The do nothing baits of the bass fishing world are incredible. Gary Yamamoto Senko Baits are among the best. The straight, round pieces of

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plastic come in a rainbow of colors and they all work the same. However, an angler can put his own twist on their usage. The common presentation is to cast and let them sit with an occasional twitch. 10. Storm’s Wiggle-Wart has long been a revered smallmouth bait. Warts in browns, greens and oranges are deadly baits. Match the hatch by checking the color of crayfish in the area where you intend to fish Warts and you are in business. Work these crankbaits around rocks, rubble and logs, but don’t get to dig them into the gravelly river bottom. 11. Brush Hogs by Zoom is a fabulous creature bait. Worked slowly over rocks and logs, the salamander-looking bait entices even the wariest of smallmouth. Try different sized weights slip style to get that just right presentation. 12. Number 12 on the deadly dozen list is a litle bit “out there.” A wily Pennsylvania angler put me onto Wordens’ Rooster Tails in hot pink. I use them as a go-to bait when the fishing is tough. They produce but I make sure none of my buddies are around when I use them. And the Pennsylvania angler – she’s now my wife!

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Something learned one golden Niangua afternoon


By Jo Schaper oung writers are told there are companies, agencies and individuals just waiting to invite you on all-expense paid vacations in the hope that you will later pen persuasive prose praising the company, agency, individual or destination, in order to lure the paying customer. Having never been asked to Paris, Athens or even Rome, I had to settle for Lebanon, Missouri, that is. The city’s tourism department and several outdoor businesses rolled out the red carpet for members of Missouri Outdoor Communicators, when we held our annual conference at Bennett Spring State Park last fall. In short, when I got a chance to go on a free float trip on the Niangua River, and all I had to do was show up in play clothes with a floppy hat and sunscreen, the lure was too much. And that’s how I ended up on a Dallas County gravel bar, paddle in hand, looking for a partner. My usual paddle mate comes with a license and a wedding ring. Since I was batching it, I looked over the selection. Actual couples had already paired off. Steve Brigman was going over his fishing gear. Steve’s a tall Texan, now from southwest Missouri. “I’m planning on doing some fishing,” he announced. “So I don’t want to paddle fast. If that’s OK with you….” I assented, and moved my float sack to the boat he was loading

FALL ON THE NIANGUA — It was a perfect golden September afternoon to canoe the Niangua with a group of Missouri Outdoor Communicators. Larry Whiteley and his wife were ahead of us. Jo Schaper photos.

with fly rod and tackle box. “Do you know how to steer from the front?” he asked. “I’d rather fish from the back, and you might have to hold the boat sometimes.” I’d never float fished in my life but having been steersman enough I allowed as it couldn’t be that hard. We shoved off, and glided down the

glassy green Niangua. The Niangua was clear, perky, and relatively low, with a few snags, but moving fast enough to demand attention. And as I soon discovered, it was full of riffles. “Let’s hold up here a while,” Steve said. “Hold up,” meant we paddled a little out of the current, and I held

the boat, more or less in place, while Steven sent cast after tantalizing cast trying to tease elusive smallies to strike at his fly. No luck. After 10 or 15 casts, he’d lay the rod down, pick up the paddle and we’d move to the next stretch. We wove in and out of the rest of Continued on next page

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Veteran floater, rookie guide finally boat smallmouth Continued from previous page

our group. A few fished, more took pictures, some with camera equipment so expensive I would never dare take on the water. Still others drifted, chatted, pointed out this flower, that bird. For a while a great blue heron rode shotgun with us, advancing just beyond the focus of my small point and shoot. Steve fished, occasionally getting out to wade, not unlike the heron. I didn’t know whether to talk or not. Steve told of his goal to canoe every river in the state. That goal almost came to an unhappy end when he put on the Gasconade with the water rising, and barely escaped with the river in full flood two days later. Every once in a while I’d hear, “That’s a nibble, but no luck,” as the fly line did lariat loops overhead. Then…. “Jo, keep the boat steady. I’ve got one, and it’s a good’un, but gee, this is going to be difficult,” he said from the stern. I didn’t have eyes in the back of my head. I could feel the boat shifting as he played the fish, but couldn’t see a thing. “What’s going on back there?” I asked. The current was gentle, but still wanted to spin us. I tried to keep the


BLENDING IN — Our blue heron honor guard pretends to be a piece of driftwood.

boat straight, steering from the front. “Oh man, it’s my first fish today, and I’m gonna have to walk it over this log to get it,” he said, “And naturally he wants to go the other way.” A few more grunts, and sighs, as if something stronger wanted to be said, but Steve was restraining himself in honor of mixed company. “Come on, baby.” Finally, the sounds of splashing indicated that the fish had left the water. “It’s got to be a, oh, maybe a pound and a quarter,” Steve said. “I’m gonna let it go, but can you get the picture first?” “OK, but we’re going to shore first. I can hold this canoe, and I can take pictures, but I don’t think I can do both at the same time.” I snapped Steve with his fish.

“Here’s a tip,” he said. “Turn your flash on.” Although it was getting on towards 4 o’clock, there was still plenty of light. I must have looked quizzical. “That’s how you do it. Use the flash, and you can pick up the glint of the wet scales, and the fish looks more alive,” he said. Sometimes, you learn things in the oddest places, like a gravel bar on a golden September day on the Niangua.

Location: Dallas, Laclede, Camden counties Floatable Length: Usually 66 miles, sometimes 79.5 miles Difficulty: I & II Key Features: Trout waters at Bennett Spring, usually placid paddle, mild gradient, decent fishing. Water clear to murky. Forms the Niangua Arm of Lake of the Ozarks. River Hills Traveler Assistant Editor Jo Schaper was editor for this section. Stories were written by freelance writers and by Traveler staff members, Emery Styron and Jo Schaper.


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Drift boats gain popularity on North Fork


By Russ Doughty ’ll never forget the time I first saw her. It was love at first sight. She was sitting on a hill and my eyes went right to her. She had beautiful curves, up-turned nose and a set of braces, a sight to behold. I wanted to go right up to her and ask what a style like hers was doing east of the Rockies, but I calmed myself. I was going to have to be smooth on this one. I casually walked up and asked the fellow that she was with, “How much for the drift boat?” You see, I’m a fly-fishing guide on the North Fork of the White River. Prior to owning my 16’ Osprey, I guided from a canoe. Canoe-guided trips aren’t bad, but a drift boat can open up a whole new world. Drift boats are U-shaped, curving up at the nose and tail. This design gives the fisherman a great platform from which to cast. The boats are designed for a fisherman in front and back, with a rower in the middle. The rower typically has 9-foot oars. This is a lot of leverage, and the boat can be maneuvered and even held still in all but the swiftest water. The Ushape is another maneuvering factor. With only the center of the boat in the water, it can spin on a dime. The North Fork can see some low water. Drift boats draft an amazingly small amount of water. There are times when I float past canoes drag-

ging while I’m drifting. While I know the river and the chutes that will take me down with little dragging, it’s the boat that makes it easy. It’s all about the U-shape. If the

CATCH MY DRIFT? — Drift boat bottoms curve sharply up at nose and tail, so they draft very little water, are extremely maneuverable and easy to hold in place in all but the swiftest waters. Russ Doughty photo.

boat does hit something and drags, the weight simply shifts forward. The boat rocks itself off the object. The name drift boat comes from the fact that you can drift along with the current — very advantageous for the fly fisher. Dry fly-fishing and nymph-

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ing can be done well out of a drift boat. There, the goal is to drift the fly at the same speed as the current. Any false movement or fly-dragging is a red flag to a trout that it’s a fake. A

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drift boat allows the rower to pull up to the top of a run or a riffle and have his fisherman cast out, and then let the boat do the work. There are times when runs or riffles of over a hundred yards can be covered with one cast. Spin fishing can be highly effective in a drift boat. You can cover a lot of water. Typically one cast is all that is necessary to present a crank bait or rooster tail. Spin style makes much movement and commotion and will get the attention of any fish in the area. Once the cast is done, the boat drifts on to a new location to cast again. Drift boats are gaining popularity. Recently I was invited to hang out around a campfire, after a day’s fish-

NORTH FORK OF WHITE Location: Douglas, Ozark counties Floatable Length: 49.5 miles Difficulty: I to III in high water due to high gradient, occasional rocky drops. Key Features: Swift, very clear, spring-fed wild trout and smallmouth stream. Wade and flyfishing common; remote in places, stream deepens below Double Spring. Unusual amount of river algae but good water quality. Runs into Lake Norfork at Tecumseh. ing at a local campground. I pulled up and parked my truck and boat in a line of trucks pulling drift boats. I counted five plus mine. Among the guys hanging out were some people that fly-fished for the first time out of a drift boat. They were hooked for life. I know I wouldn’t trade mine for the world. It truly is like riding down the river in a Cadillac. We take rapids, riffles, shallows and rocks in stride. We can run over canoers and kayakers like speed bumps, only the belligerent ones, of course. Introduce yourself to a drift boat today. You just might be smitten. Russ Doughty guides at River of Life Farm near Dora. He’s the son of an older Russ Doughty, who also wrote for Traveler in years past.


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Upper Current float rewards those who take their time


By Tim Harrison suppose that pleasant surprise and peaceful quiet would be on the list we all like. I’d have to say that I have had plenty of both every time I have taken the canoe out for an overnight float trip. One of the most pleasant surprises is that there are so few folks who camp out of their canoes. Oh, there are an awful lot of canoes on most of our Ozark rivers, alright. But most folks are out there for just the afternoon. I’m here to tell you that they don’t know what they’re missing. I took my first overnight float trip 32 years ago. My seven-year-old daughter went with me to the Current River. I didn’t have a canoe at that time, just a 12-foot johnboat with wooden oars. We put in at Akers Ferry and I cautiously maneuvered the boat downstream, forever fearing that I might capsize and lose all our gear. Having that grave responsibility forced me to pay a great deal of attention to everything around me. During the day many a flotilla of hooting canoeists passed by. They seemed to not be paying attention to much of anything, but they all seemed to be making their way down the river. I began to feel a bit more confident in my ability to navigate the river, but I never let down my guard. I had precious pig-tailed cargo on board, plus all of the gear we might ever need. We made camp that evening on a nice flat gravel bar a short ways up a tributary creek. Man, did it get quiet!

we waded out into the branch and spotted some big old crawdaddies prowling the shallows. A crawdaddy caught in the beam of a flashlight is a magical thing to a 7-year-old. I just could not believe that there weren’t any mosquitoes along that spring branch. I have since figured out hat the mosquitoes just don’t seem to like hanging out on open, breezy Continued on next page

MINIMALIST CAMPING — Really, what more do you need on a gravel bar than a fire, a chair and a bedroll? Below, the author's son Ben and dog Specky find rocky comfort. Tim Harrison photos.


We finished eating our supper and laid on our backs watching nighthawks and bats zooming above. Though we were being quiet, a

momma mink decided that she needed to move her kits further up the branch. One by one she gripped them by the nape and stole upstream. After dark

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Alley Spring memories

July 4 and one that got away


By Verna Simms pride myself in being able to adjust to change, but these days I prefer to celebrate July 4 by letting the young participate in the fireworks while I stay in an air-conditioned room by the window and gaze at the sky. I enjoy watching the bursts of colorful lights splash across the sky and don’t miss the loud booms bombarding my eardrums or the unpleasant odor of gunpowder. Personally, I prefer to honor our soldiers by going to a peaceful setting to contemplate their victory and the freedom we inherited. I recall such a holiday when my children were young. 1951: I grabbed the receiver on the third ring, “Hello.” “Hi, Sis. Want to go camping this Fourth of July?” my brother, Lewis, asked.

“You know I do.” I laughed into the small pink Princess telephone. Lewis had moved from Missouri to Michigan after World War II to please his bride, but our families enjoyed vacationing together. “I’ve bought a larger trailer,” my brother continued. “There’s room for Mama to sleep. Ask her if she’d like to go to Alley Springs with us.” Mama lived in Festus, a few blocks from our home. It made it handy for Lewis and his family when they drove to Festus to visit. The older lady loved traveling, running water--and watercress—and family get-togethers. Always before we’d not had room for all of us to sleep. The park where Lewis chose for us

Continued from previous page gravel bars. Why is still a mystery to me. We cooked up bacon and eggs in the morning as the fog swirled across the river. Pretty! We loaded up our gear and made our way down to Cave Spring. We seemed to have the whole river all to ourselves. We drifted past another small group who were camping. We waved and they waved back. I guess none of us wanted to break the peace with words. We ended our float at Pulltite camp. Most folks would have finished that short float in an afternoon. We had spent the better part of two days out there. I remember it as though it were yesterday. The next spring I bought a couple of old Grumman canoes and found some young folks in Mountain View who helped shuttle my van downstream. Then I spent a week floating all of the Jack’s Fork into Current River down to Van Buren. Again, I took my time. I hiked a lot of side hollers and checked out caves and springs all along the way. Heaven! I managed to learn how to pilot a canoe through just about anything. Just knowing that tipping over would not bode well for a fella whose

vehicle was days away kept me from trying anything too risky. Again I could not believe that I had the whole river to myself for most of the week. Huck Finn I was. Holy freedom. My children taught themselves how to paddle a canoe by the time they were 12 to 13 years old. I would have all our gear in my boat and they would have their own canoe. Spinning the canoe around and sitting backwards in what would normally be the front seat positions a solo paddler closer to the center thwart. This makes the canoe sit in the water at a better level. Though I kept close tabs on my young ones, they learned to anticipate the river and quickly gained confidence in their judgment. I have witnessed quite a few people become confident canoeists by this method. It is a blessing when a person doesn’t have anybody hollering at them to turn this way or that in a frantic manner. I suppose that may be the reason we are seeing so many kayaks on the rivers these days. Folks want to be in control of their own destinies. I have tried kayaking. It’s OK I suppose, but there just isn’t much room for all the overnight gear I might ever need.

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grew an abundance of the green plant in its cold, crystal-clear water. Alley Springs was at that time a state park and was rather relaxed with its camping rules. Instead of assigning each camper a place, we were allowed to park almost anywhere. It was easy to feel close to our Creator in this beautiful spot in southern Missouri.

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“Okay, see you tomorrow. We’ll leave at first light and stay the first night at your house.” Lewis started to hang up, but quickly added, “Bring a watermelon?” “Sure,” I answered. “I’ll choose a nice big one. Love you.” How exciting—my three favorites— family, camping and a large juicy watermelon! A hot day in July, our caravan of two trailers headed south to Alley Springs. The four-hour drive was Continued on next page

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Did varmints overhear prayer of thanks for extra food to share?

Continued from previous page uneventful and we arrived in time for lunch. “Let’s park our trailers next to the stream where the watercress grows?” I said, when we stopped to pay an overnight entrance fee. Crystal-clear, icy water flowed from the deep spring and rushed down to meet Jacks Fork River. Our party of nine walked the short distance to the spring’s beginning. An old barn-red mill reflected in the deep-blue water. Coolness from the water drifted up. I reached over to clasp the hands of my young daugh-

JACKS FORK Location: Texas, Shannon counties Floatable Length: 44.6 miles Difficulty: I & II, better in spring Key Features: High gradient stream, Scenic bluffs at the Prongs, best all-year upper access at Blue Spring. Best to run loaded lightly above Alley Spring; Red Mill at Alley, scenic view at Two Rivers where it joins the Current River.


ter, Jean, and my husband and imagined we were in the Garden of Eden. I’m sure God had created a place for Adam and Eve as beautiful as this. I’d have loved to visit it. Back at camp, everyone admired the watermelon my husband had chosen, with its deep-green rind and light-green stripes. We knew it would be red and juicy. All of us prefer melon cold and we TIMELESS FUN — The author’s great-grandson, Luke Adams, enjoys wading in the agreed to wait. Sometimes waiting for Jacks Fork River. Verna Simms photo. something makes it extra special. telling stories, the evening passed “Let’s tie the melon securely and leave down here at a river I thought that would be a good verse, don’t you?” quickly. With a yawn, Mama rose it overnight,” Lewis suggested. He from her lawn chair. “I’m off to bed.” wrapped the clothesline, he had brought “Yes, dear. You left us hanging. Did it work?” Early the next morning she opened for drying wet swimwear, around the the trailer door, took a deep breath of middle and then lengthwise. He plunged Jean giggled, “That’s my Bible the fresh country air and stepped the juicy fruit into a clear, deep spot and verse for tomorrow. You’ll have to wait to find over to the stream of water. secured the loose end of the rope to a Her shout awakened heavy, picnic table. “That should do it.” out.” We all laughed. me. “What’s wrong, he said. I noticed the satisfied look on As if we were Mama?” I stuck my his face. reading each head out our trailer We donned swimsuits and enjoyed other’s minds, door. a quick swim in the Jack Fork before we reached out “A varmint roasting wieners over an open flame. and grabbed each got our melon!” she While waiting for the hotdogs to burn other’s hands moaned. “See the just right, Jean spoke. large cavity; only “I’ve memorized my verse for the day. making a circle. With bowed a rind remains. Just Shall I recite it now?” enough red meat to We nodded. Learning a verse of their heads, Lewis, led us in prayer. see it would’ve been own choosing had been a long family “Dear Lord, We delicious.” custom. thank you for provid Yes, a critter feasted Jean took a deep breath. “My Bible on our watermelon, but we didn’t verse: 2 Kings: 5:10 ‘Elisha sent a mes- ing us with plenty of food and let it ruin our trip. Someone drove into senger to say to him. Go, wash yourself extra to share. We also thank you for children who love you and obey your Eminence and purchased another but seven times in the Jordan, and your teachings. May it always be so. We it was not as big and juicy as the one flesh will be restored and you will be ask your blessing on what we are we lost. cleansed.’” about to partake in name of Jesus. Just like a fish...the one we catch is “That’s good, Jean. Because we are never as big as the one that got away! away from home having a good time is Amen. “ Each of us remembered camping Verna Simms, 91, of Festus, says Alno excuse to forget our Creator.” ley and Big Spring were her favorite Again Jean spoke, “I looked up river adventures from the past. Gazing into the dying embers; reminiscing and camping areas when she was young. in a Bible concordance. Since were

Meramec stretches 194 miles from Dent County wilds to St. Louis ‘burbs

Continued from Page 8 springs enter the river along the way. This section offers some outstanding smallmouth fishing, gravel bars to loaf on for a while and numerous spots for a swim. Below the Huzzah entrance, the Huzzah Conservation Area borders the river for about two miles. Here early floaters may see deer, wild turkey, small animals and a variety of birds, including the great blue heron.

Onondaga Cave State Park is just down stream and is worth checking out. Campgrounds can be found here, too. Several private campgrounds can be found on both sides of the river. They cater to floaters and are usually preferred. Swimming beaches at canoe liveries on the south side of the river are popular. Blue Springs Creek enters 10 miles below the park and is another great place to cool off when the summer

heat reaches intolerable levels. Blue Springs Conservation Area holds one of our wild trout streams. Most fish are not big, but they are fun to catch. Meramec State Park is 5 miles further downstream. Several caves and springs dot the river here. Caves are plentiful in the park and worth the hike. Hamilton Cave is several miles south of the river and offers a huge opening and long entrance before growing much smaller.

Call Toll Free to arrange your trip anywhere in the spring-fed Upper Current and Jacks Fork area.

Last working ferry in the Ozark Scenic Riverways

Come Floateawinothr &Us! Gene, El gard Marcus Mag

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Meramec Caverns and LaJolla Spring Natural Park are only a half mile on down river. Campgrounds and amenities are plentiful here. The Meramec is floatable all the way to the Mississippi. However, below Pacific the rivers slows and widens. This last stretch is home to more jetboats and fishermen. The fishing can be fabulous. You never know what you might catch, Continued on Page 16

1/4 mile east of Eminence on Highway 106 1-800-522-5736 573-858-3221





Personal Flotation Device 101 It won’t save your life if you won’t wear it


By Jo Schaper f you want to know the importance of life jackets, ask Tia Martin from Ellington or Jeff DeMent, of Hazelwood. Tia Martin boats at Clearwater Lake. “When Alexis was 16 months old, we went out on a friend’s pontoon boat. We tried to put her in the water in her infant lifejacket, but she didn’t want any part of it. She must have seen my sons swimming and the next thing we knew, she had sailed off the end of the boat and into the water. “I don’t swim, but I was able to grab her and bring her back in,” Martin said. About two years later, Alexis ended up in the water again, Martin said. “This time I did not get her out. Our friend’s dogs, Lady and Shadow, jumped in before I could. Shadow let her grab onto him and Lady grabbed onto the handle on her life jacket and pulled her back to the boat.” Jeff credits his lifejacket with keeping him alive after the icy cold, brown and murky Colorado River rolled his kayak twice near the end of an eight-mile solo paddle near Rifle, Colorado. Concrete dikes create

an undertow on the Class III water there, he said. The current turned him sideways, then rolled him under as he tried to regain control of his boat. “I grew up in Redford and

SLIM PROFILE — Rachel Garren. Rachel Garren models one of the thin manual inflator style PFDs. The user inflates the jacket when it is needed. One advantage of this style is the slim profile. USACE photo.

TRAIN UP A CHILD — If you put a child into a lifejacket or PFD from a very young age, he or she will form the habit early. Deb Bixler, an ardent floater, knew she wanted to take daughter Maggie on her trips. If a PFD does not fit, the child will let you know right away. Jo Schaper photo YOUR FLOATING HEADQUARTERS FOR: • CANOES • KAYAKS • TUBES • RAFTS

Ellington,” he said. “The majority of summers in my youth were spent fishing, swimming, and canoeing the Black and Current rivers. You would think I would have learned the life jacket lesson long ago, but it wasn’t until that Colorado trip that the lesson stuck.” Face it. Life jackets are a pain to wear. They are bulky and hot when you want to be cool, can bind your arm movement when fishing or paddling, and mark you as some outdoors nerd more concerned with your own life than being the life of the party. If you’re not a svelte twentysomething, getting a cheap one to fit can be a pain in the neck. The Army Corps of Engineers’ Rachel Garren is a firm advocate for life jackets on Corps’ lakes. “There are all different kinds of life jackets for all different kinds of craft and activities. There are paddle vests, ski vests, boating, fishing, even flyfishing jackets and float coats for hunting. The most important point is you have to wear it,” she said. “It’s like a seat belt. You can’t put it on just before you have a wreck.” In Missouri, you need one per passenger on your boat. Children under age 7 must wear them unless inside a boat cabin. Regulations for utility, bass and jet boats, canoes and kayaks are all similar. On a personal watercraft? Better have one on. “If you are in a small boat, you really need to wear a jacket,” said Lili Colby of MTI Adventurewear. “Many people get their hatred of PFDs from having cheap ones that don’t fit. You need to think about what you will be doing, and what sort of jacket you need to do it in comfort, or you won’t wear it.” Most life jackets and vests in Missouri stores are Coast Guard Type III, designed for calmer inland conditions. It doesn’t take much to make most people buoyant. All a PFD really has to do is keep one’s head above water. “I asked some women, and they like the mesh tops and the floatation around the middle the best,” said Garren. She also likes manual inflator styles. These are chemically powered and require ripcord activation.

At Round Spring Campground HCR 1, Box 137 Eminence, MO 65466-9711


800-333-3956 www.carrscanoerental.com


At Pulltite Campground HCR 62, Box 375 Salem, MO 65466-9711

Please visit our websites for current prices.

“Auto-inflators inflate automatically when immersed,” she said. “They will not go off just because it rains, but they don’t work so well for kayaks, or canoes.” Recharging an inflatable PFD isn’t expensive. “We’ve got whole lines of PFDs for women…even larger women,” Colby said. “Men’s PFDs are bigger in the wrong places, so it’s not just size alone.” Colby suggested that people look online for what they like, and take a printout to their local sporting goods store, and see if they have a similar model. “Whatever your size or shape, you really do need to try on a PFD before you buy,” she said. “Try it on, and take a paddle stroke or cast a rod or point a gun…see if it really works for you when you are wearing it. A few extra bucks to get something you like might really save your life,” she said. Note: the author, who admits to being “fluffy” not slim, finally found a good fitting kayak-style life jacket as a result of this research.

Hwy. 19 - 25 Miles south of Salem between Hwys. A and EE


877-858-3250 www.current-river.com

PRECIOUS LIVES AT STAKE — All it takes to be a poster child for floatation safety is a PFD, a few freckles and a great smile. Maggie Hagan, 10, has all three.

HCR 62 Box 368 Salem Missouri 65560

Or 573-858-3371 Canoes • Rafts • Kayaks Floater Camping • RV Hookups Convenience Store www.runningrivercanoe.com Come Float The Upper Current River!


Family float with tykes?



Location: Dent, Crawford, Phelps, Franklin, Jefferson, St. Louis counties Floatable Length: 193.5 miles Difficulty: Usually I, occasionally II Key Features: Upper Meramec and Maramec Spring is trout/ smallmouth fishery with shallow, clear water; middle to lower Meramec is murky catfish water. Banks have numerous caves, some small springs. Gravel to mud bottom. Lots of public land access. Can be floated all the way to Mississippi River. Popular swimming river. Flows through historically significant mineral area. Lower portion urban, but still used.

Experts say it’s safe if you play it smart


By Becky Davenport have always had a love for water, and yearly my husband Ryan and I plan a short getaway to take a summer float. Over the last few years, it has become quite the battle in our house rather or not we should take our children floating with us. Ryan believes that putting them in a canoe with life jackets, and we’re good to go. For me, I have been in a canoe with him, I have been floating with him, and I have been in a johnboat that ended up upside down in Lake Girardeau, so I am not too keen on the idea of spending the day on a river with the him and the kids. However, last year I did break down while visiting Eagle Hurst Ranch near Steelville, and went for a short 20-minute float with the kids. The result: they loved floating, they are born to be in the water. Now the question is do I take them on a longer float? With summer upon us, I begin researching safe solutions for “floating as a family.” Since I am a mom, my research began with asking other moms their experiences of floating with kids. Alaina Hinze is a friend and an experienced family floater. She started her little ones canoeing around age two and amazingly has taken them on twoand three-day floats. Alaina explained that she uses old child car seats with all the straps

ADVENTURES AHEAD — By consulting the experts (other moms) and a river outfitter, Becky Davenport learned that you can take small children on float trips, even multi-day ones, and survive. Suggestions inncluded using rafts and car child seats. She’s planning some family floats this summer. Becky Davenport photo.

removed and attaches umbrellas to the side of the car seats for shade. She said car seats are designed to float, so if the boat did tip the kids could hold onto the car seats.Her children also wear certified life jackets. While safety was my main concern, I was also dying to know how her kids behaved in the canoe. My kids can really have some fights while in the car for five minutes. I cannot imagine four hours in a canoe together. Alaina explained that she faces the kids towards each other and packs a few small toys so they can play games together, but remain sitting in the canoe. With Alaina’s advice in mind, I began searching for locations for family floats. Ryan and I have always floated on Current River, but I know that is a popular destination, especially on the weekends. However, come mid-July when I am really warm enough to go floating, all rivers are going to be busy. I decided to give up on finding the most secluded place and instead, call the experts. Matthew Bedell, manager of The Landing in Van Buren, advised that the Current River does get full on the

weekends, so for a family float it’s good to go during the week. He also suggested using a raft as a safe, family alternative to canoes. Six person, heavy-duty PVC rafts are 12 foot long and six feet wide, durable and quite stable, making it easy to accomodate both family and coolers. Matthew also suggested taking a shorter float trip with kids along. After consulting the experts, I have decided we will take our adventurous kids for their first long float trip this summer. Even though I am no expert on floating as a family, I will leave my fellow parents with a bit of safety advice and tips; remember to pack the sunscreen and apply it often. You will need bug spray, as you will be stopping along the riverbanks. Of course, those kiddos want juice boxes and sugar, but remember to pack plenty of water and snacks that hang around in their tummies for a few hours. Finally, pack a few water and sand toys to entertain them while you are stopped, and most importantly, do not forget your sense of humor.

Lower Meramec fishing benefits from nearness to Mississippi River

Continued from Page 14 with the Mississippi being nearby. I’ve heard tales that some decent walleye are caught every year here. The Meramec River is a water lovers paradise. It twists and turns 194 miles through the Ozarks and you can bet there is a new thrill around every turn. It is no wonder that the Meramec River Valley is the floating capital of Missouri. And to add icing to the cake, the canoe liveries and outfitters along the Meramec are the best in the business. Pass up a float one day and camp with these knowledgeable folks. Ooooh, and do they know how to cook! Traveler brings you the best in Missouri outdoor news, photos and stories.To learn more about Traveler or subscribe to our monthly magazine, please visit



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